Editor’s Note: The Culver-Stockton College group’s Internet access was cut off during the latter part of their trip, which is why Jen Roberts was unable to provide daily updates this past week. But Jen wrote daily and we will be sharing those posts with you this week.
By Jen Roberts
Our travel study in Cuba has been life changing for myself, the faculty and the students.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early ’90s, which Cuba relied on heavily for goods trade, the Cuban economy has been nearly annihilated. To put it in perspective, our tour guide Ileana received her law degree in 1991, and has never been able to use it because the government pays each citizen’s salary and she can make more money from her tips as a tour guide than she can practicing law. She only makes 10 CUCs a month and she and her family survive mostly on her tips.
When we traveled to Vinales Valley we were completely stunned by the beauty of the land, but more importantly we were shocked by the level of poverty. I saw a man with no shoes walking down the street with a wheelbarrow made completely out of sticks and one small wheel that looked to be older than me. When we visited Mural de la Prehistoria there was a man who let us sit on his trained bull. He was so sweet and funny, and how he trained his bull was amazing. Once he finished his presentation he asked us if we had any lotion, and by the looks of his weathered hands he was in desperate need. C-SC student Lisa Button did not hesitate to run back to the bus and grab him her bottle of lotion.
Off to the side of the mural painting there were horses available for rides. A young boy was sitting in the shade, obviously trying to stay out of his father’s way as he stalled up the horses. Abby Frings, C-SC student, ran back to the bus and grabbed a pack of chewing gum and Button grabbed Culver-Stockton pens. The boy’s eyes lit up with excitement as they presented him with the gifts.
Cuba, its people and the condition they live in has made a deep impact on all of us. We couldn’t help but want to give them as much of our personal belongings as we could, because simple things to us, such as a pair of shoes, or even toilet paper, may be difficult for them to afford.